UK government block on local councils’ ethical investments 'an attack on democracy'

22 September 2016 - 10:45am
Press release

The UK government has finally issued new guidance to local authorities on how they can invest their pensions. 

It states that “using pension policies to pursue boycotts, divestment and sanctions against foreign nations and UK defence industries are inappropriate...”

War on Want’s senior militarism and security campaigner, Ryvka Barnard, said:

“The government’s action is an attack on democracy and explicit clamp down on the growing strength of the grassroots Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which aims to end government and corporate complicity in Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.

“26,000 members of the public wrote to the government to oppose the proposal in a consultation earlier this year and they have been ignored.

“The government has given itself the power to veto decisions that it doesn’t like, overruling the democratic process and blocking local councils from making investment decisions in line with community values. This is plain wrong.

“The government has an obligation not to enable violations of human rights and international law, which includes making sure that it is not financially or otherwise supporting Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights. Local communities in England and Wales must be able to make their own decisions about how to invest their funds without interference from the central government. This includes their right to decide not to invest in companies implicated in human rights abuse.  Whitehall interference in this process is completely anti-democratic.

“When UK companies export military equipment used in war crimes or take contracts to build infrastructure for illegal settlements or the Apartheid Wall, they are complicit in violations of international law. Ordinary citizens and local councils have often used boycotts and divestment to withhold their support from companies who do so.

“The government should be applauding local communities for taking these ethical stances rather than cracking down on them.”

 

Notes to editors

For more information and to arrange interviews contact RossHemingway on 07983 550 728

UK government: Local government pension scheme: guidance on preparing and maintaining an investment strategy statement

Protect Local Democracy campaign: http://waronwant.org/protect-local-democracy-qa

UK government guidelines: Overseas Business Risk - Israel

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